What We Learned

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2021 NFL season, Week 4: What we learned from Chargers' win over Raiders on Monday night

Los Angeles Chargers
Los Angeles Chargers
2021 · 3-1-0
Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas Raiders
2021 · 3-1-0

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  1.  I don't care if it's repetitive at this point: Justin Herbert is the real deal. The second-year quarterback posted yet another excellent statistical performance, completing 25 of 38 passes for 222 yards, three touchdowns and a 107.6 passer rating. His first impressive throw of the night was a rope to Donald Parham in the back of the end zone for a touchdown, and he put another one through a tight window up the seam to Jared Cook for his second score of the game. Herbert made it a trifecta with a perfectly placed pass over the head of linebacker K.J. Wright to Austin Ekeler, whose beautiful wheel route paired with Herbert's throw better than the finest steak and glass of Cabernet and capped a dominant first half. It wasn't until the Chargers essentially left Herbert on an island with free-rushing Raiders bearing down on him that he experienced a lull in his performance. While the Chargers needed Herbert to go win them the game last week, he did enough early to build a lead that Los Angeles simply needed to hang onto. Thanks to a complete team effort, they did just that and moved to 3-1 with the look of a legitimate contender.
  2. Ekeler's value cannot be questioned. Los Angeles got off to a hot start with Ekeler ripping up 25 yards in his first two attempts on the Chargers' opening drive, helping them reach the end zone via a Parham touchdown. But after he was shown limping after a run and spent the majority of the third quarter out of the action, it was no coincidence that the Chargers' offense also entered a rut. Need a stat to illustrate how important Ekeler is to the Los Angeles offense? The Chargers finished with negative-four rushing yards over expectation. If they didn't have Ekeler available, that mark would've landed at negative-39. Ekeler single-handedly powered the Chargers' ground game, caught three passes for 28 yards and a touchdown, and powered a crucial fourth-quarter scoring drive that burned over five minutes of game clock. It's only right that it was Ekeler who capped that drive with a rushing touchdown. The Chargers have plenty of talent elsewhere, but they're at their best -- and most dangerous -- when Ekeler is right in the thick of it.
  3. The Raiders should just accept who they are: a pass-first team. Las Vegas essentially wasted an entire half of football stubbornly trying to get Josh Jacobs going following a two-game absence, and it bit the team squarely in their silver rear. The Raiders reached halftime looking up at the sky from a 21-0 hole as the unenviable owners of more penalty yards (53) than offensive yards (51). It wasn't until they were essentially forced by the deficit to throw that the Raiders awoke offensively, and Derek Carr returned to form, leading consecutive touchdown drives to make it a 21-14 game. Carr caught fire in this stretch, ripping a throw into the belly of Hunter Renfrow for a touchdown and then lofting another pass to Darren Waller, who mossed Nasir Adderley for a score. Las Vegas couldn't quite sustain its comeback efforts, though, with Carr's worst throw of the night landing in the arms of Derwin James, ending hopes of staging a come-from-behind win. The Raiders will likely look back at this one with a bitter taste in their mouth while acknowledging they can't ignore their strength to try to become a more balanced team. The good news: The Carr-to-Henry Ruggs III connection remains alive and well. It just needs to be utilized more than it was Monday night.
  4. Hats off to the Chargers' defense. Las Vegas entered Monday night's game with the longest active streak of games with 400-plus yards of offense at eight straight contests and was one more game from tying the 2006-07 Patriots for the third-longest streak in history. The Raiders met a brick wall in the form of Brandon Staley's Chargers defense, which limited the Raiders to 51 yards in the first half, including zero yards in the first quarter. Las Vegas bounced back in the second half, but couldn't do enough to even flirt with the 400-yard mark, finishing at 251 while converting just four of 13 third-down attempts. The Chargers sacked Carr four times (with four different defenders), ended his streak of 350-plus passing yards and two or more touchdowns at four games, and held the league leader in passing yards (entering Week 4) under 200. The James interception capped an impressive defensive night for the Chargers, who are certainly more than just the Justin Herbert Show, and stand as a significant test for any offense awaiting them.
  5. The Raiders might end up being thankful for this loss. Las Vegas was on a tear entering Monday night and seen by many as a legitimate contender, but frankly, it never hurts to be humbled. The Raiders met their first legitimate defensive challenge of 2021, tripped and fell into a deep hole and were forced to attempt to find a way out of it. They almost did, returning to their offensive strength in the second half and scoring two quick touchdowns, and they have plenty of lessons to learn from this loss that should benefit them going forward. They're no longer an undefeated darling of the league, but are still in a great spot at 3-1. Now it's about applying the lessons learned to ensure they don't find themselves staring at an uphill climb with just a half of football left to play.


Next Gen stat of the game: Hunter Renfrow recorded his first drop since Week 14 of the 2020 season, ending a streak of 30 straight targets that resulted in completed passes.


NFL Research: Justin Herbert recorded his 500th career completion Monday night in only his 19th NFL start, becoming the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to reach 500-plus completions before his 20th start.

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